The World of Satay
A cook's guide to the appealing and adaptable combination of skewers, meat, and heat.
Satay is the quintessence of fast food in southeast Asia. You'll find it sizzling over hot coals practically 24 hours a day—at night markets, in busy hawker stalls, or offered by mobile vendors who prepare it to order. These cooks carry bamboo rods across their shoulders, balancing a basketful of the marinated meat and condiments on one side and a small grill filled with hot coals on the other. When a vendor is waved down by a customer, he sets up his mobile kitchen on the ground and starts cooking. Within minutes, the skewers are charred and ready to eat. The versions offered depend on your location. In coastal areas, you find an amazing variety of seafood satays, such as the ones featured here: an emphatically spiced hoi malaeng puu from southern Thailand made with mussels (top) and satay udang, shrimp slathered with a gingery paste (bottom), a favorite in Singapore. On the island of Bali, in Indonesia, the seafood used in satay is brightly seasoned; cooks finely mince ingredients like fresh tuna (middle) with freshly pounded spices and shape them around the skewers before grilling to make satay lilit.
See the recipe for Southern Thai-Style Mussel Satay »
See the recipe for Shrimp Satay »